By Khalid Shafi’i
After our high school graduation, each day seemed to blur into the next. I had no structure or purpose, no reason to get up in the morning. I was going to bed late every night. I spent hours hanging out with friends at Amar’s house.
Deedat, Abdul, Serdeeq, Amar himself, and I will cocoon in the tiny room so much more than the sum of its parts when it encourages the soul to breathe. We would play games, surf the web, and occasionally chit-chat. Moments I’ll hold unto for the rest of my life.
And one fine morning, after returning home, my phone buzzed loudly, waking me from a restless sleep. I reached for it blindly, knocking it from the nightstand. It fell to the floor with a clatter. And one gaze was enough to recall the caller, Leila.
Leila and I met at a friend’s birthday party. She’s beautiful, alluring, and angelic. She has midnight-black hair that always flowed over her shoulders, and even though I had never tasted her honey-sweet-looking lips, I can tell they were lilac soft. After all, we are not married, or not yet.
I know Leila wasn’t the type to fall for a guy like me. Nevertheless, I made a botched attempt to ask her out. And since then, I never heard from her again. So, I wonder why she still held on to my phone number.
“Hello, Omar”. She called from the other end of the phone.
I took a deep breath. Even though it’s been a while I heard from Leila, I still recall how mellifluous her voice was. It always sends a chill down my spine. Like a form of therapy, her voice would heal a psychic patient.
“Hi, Leila. Is that you?” I managed to answer.
“I know It’s been a while, but I’d love to hang out with you tonight if you wouldn’t mind? Meet me at Southern Fried Chicken.” She ended the call before I could protest, but as soon as I caught her words, I was confused.
Leila sounded desperate. “This could be my chance,” I thought to myself. Immediately, I got into the bathroom, cleaned up, wore my favourite clothes, and headed to SFC. Upon entering, I sighted Leila seated with grace, like the Queen she should be. One look was enough to see the restlessness she’s trying so hard to hide.
“Hi, Omar, I need your help, please. Help me, and I’ll not only love you but also remain indebted to you for the rest of my life.”
“Whoa, whoa Leila, take a deep breath. Make an order, eat something and let’s talk,” I insisted. Of course, Leila didn’t want to do that, but I was insistent. I could see how desperate she was to talk, but I refused to give her audience.
Leila was not in the right state of mind to make an order, so I waved a waitress and placed the order – for us both. Immediately the waitress brought the food, Leila pounced on it like a hungry lion would pounce on a deer after starving for a month. I watched in shock as she devoured everything within a short period.
“Why wouldn’t she eat in the first place? Whatever is wrong must be so serious to prevent Leila from eating despite being this famished.” I thought to myself.
Leila suddenly stopped in the middle of her food and said, “Omar, I am pregnant for a guy I just killed.”
Like a break in transmission, the whole place became silent, at least, for me. I looked up to see if really that utterance was coming out of Leila’s mouth.
“Leila, did you hear yourself? Tell me you’re joking, please,” I quizzed.
One look was enough to make me register the seriousness on her face. After that, I didn’t know what more to say.
Looks could deceive, but Leila is in no way a killer. I mean, how could she? She’s a lady, a beautiful young lady, for God sake. I raised my head to look at her face again. I wanted to see that ‘killer face’, but NO. All I saw was an innocent, scared young lady. I was lost in my thought when I heard her say, “won’t you ask me how it happened?”
“Yes, please, how?”
“It’s a long story, Omar. But I’ll try to cut it short.” She said.
“Please, do,” I answered, almost nervously.
“We don’t have much time now. Omar, please help me dump the body, and I promise to tell you everything.”
“What! Leila, I…..”
“It was an accident, Omar. Believe me. I won’t put you in harm’s way,” she interrupted.
“what If..” I began again
“No what-ifs, Omar. Nothing will happen,” she assured.
“Okay, where is he?“ I agreed.
I quickly went to the counter, paid for the food I ordered and in no time, Leila and I headed to her boyfriend’s house, retrieved his body and set out to dump it. I was driving, with Leila seated in the passenger’s seat and the body…. Well, the body was a tad uncomfortably lying in the trunk of my car when, all of a sudden, we were stopped by the police.
I was nervous, confused and scared. But, surprisingly, Leila was a little more composed than I was. How could she?
“What should we tell them, Leila? We’re caught. What should we do?“ I exclaimed.
“Keep calm”, she retorted. “we’re not caught yet unless you want them to figure us out now, keep calm. Let me do the talking.”
“Hello, Madam,” the Police officer asked.
“Yes, Officer, any problem?”
“No, we just want to see your particulars.”
I passed the papers to Leila, and she did the same to the police officer. He inspected the documents and went away to a patrol car not far from us. My heart began racing. The officer responded to a call on the radio and nodded. It looked like he was receiving instructions to arrest us.
The officer passed the instructions to his colleagues and came back to us after. “Oga, open your booth abeg. Make we see wetin dey inside,” he yelled in Pidgin.
“Nothing dey inside officer, we dey in a hurry to go the hospital. My mama no well,” Leila answered in the same language.
“Eyya, sorry ehn… just open the booth, and you’ll soon be on the way”, the officer assured her.
I was confused. I didn’t know what to do anymore. I wanted to tell him it wasn’t me. I wanted to say to him that I was only helping her. I knew it was over for us. What was I going to tell my parent? Would they ever believe I didn’t do it? My friends, oh my God, how would I possibly explain this to them.
“Oga just radio us say make we dey check booths. Queue don dey form, driver come open dis booth make I clear dis road,” he uttered.
His face was not friendly again. If I don’t open this booth, he might probably shoot me, I thought to myself.
I came out from the car, went round like I would open the booth, but I didn’t. Instead, I dipped my hands into my pocket, brought out a fifty naira note and offered it to the police.
“Officer, please accept this small change make we kuku japa for here. We dey in a hurry abeg,” I said, mustering all the courage I could.
“Oga, open dis booth before I slap you now. You’re wasting my time,” he asked angrily.
To be continued.
Khalid Shafi’i can be reached via email@example.com.